Hawkshead Brewery – Meet The Brewer – Port Street Beer House 26/11/2012

‘Twas a fairly grim evening, this particular Monday. I had been aware of these events that had been held almost monthly at Port Street, but, as yet, had not attended one.

However, when Jaz approached me with the prospect of attending one when the great and the good from Hawkshead brewery of Staveley, Cumbria would be presenting, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up!

Anyway. Where were we. Ah Yes! ‘Twas a grim evening, this particular Monday. Getting to Manchester in rush hour was managed with the help of my darling Attila and I found myself approaching Jaz, loitering on the corner of Hilton & Port St.

Entering the mighty Beer House, I was surprised to learn that, ordinarily, it is closed on a Monday evening! I handed over my entrance ticket to receive 5 raffle style tickets, each to be exchanged for a drink at the bar, a 1/2 pint of Windermere Pale and 4 “samples”. Intrigued? Was I!

I was pleased to notice that, whilst there were only 3 beers with their clips “facing”, one of these was Blackedge Brewery “Black Stout”. Judging by reports, the Blackedge “Black Port” had been on and was subject to rave reviews. I was pleased to try this local ale (Horwich). Black as night, with an off white head, the aromas were promisingly earthy. What followed was a pint of dark malty roasted goodness, with a hoppy dry aftertaste. (I’ll be scouting Bolton pubs to find more!)

I then settled down to the business at hand, a half pint of Hawkshead Windermere Pale. A seriously hoppy beer at a mere 3.5%. Almost lager pale, the hoppy aromas can be quite surprising at first, lots of grapefruit and apricot in there. This is a gorgeously sharp pint. Nice and bitter and hugely moreish. A beer you could drink all evening and, quite possibly, my favourite beer below 4% abv!

As I got toward the end of the half, the brewers were introduced. 4 had travelled up from Staveley and one of them, Matt Clarke, the Head Brewer, (a New Zealander) gave us a quick spiel about the brewery.

Founded by Alex Brodie (hence, Brodies Prime) in 2002, they started brewing just outside of Hawkshead on a 7 barrel plant. Having grown rapidly, they outgrew the initial premises and ended up at the current location at Staveley where they can now brew nearly 6 times the previous capacity.

Matt introduced the first beer of the evening. Brodies Prime (I was SO hoping they’d brought some!). A silky dark roasted beer, not quite a Stout, not quite a Porter. Matt made reference to the current vogue of Black IPAs (which Brodies Prime predated by nearly a decade!). I resolved that this half pint would not be the last Brodies of the evening!

Next, Matt introduced NZPA (New Zealand Pale Ale). Brewed at 6%, using four New Zealand hops: Green Bullet, Riwaka, Motueka & Nelson Sauvin. He claimed that he was cajoled into making this beer as people kept asking him why a New Zealander wasn’t using hops from his own country! Tasting the NZPA, I reckon he needed absolutely no excuses whatsoever! This is a big beer. On a firm sweet malty base, those citrussy New Zealand hops pack a mighty punch. This was the first pale I had at the SIBA fest last month, I loved it then and that only grew with this taste (another 1/2 pint). Just when I was starting to feel that I was deserting my Dark wife for a pale mistress……

On comes the next beer…..Ooooh……An Imperial Stout! Brewed with oats and SIX malts!!! Aged in Oaken Bladnoch Whisky Casks for nearly 10 months!!!! (I think I’ve broken my exclamation mark key) This is an astonishingly lovely, rich beer! (I lied about the ! of course) Sweet tobacco, coffee…yum. Then, just at the side of the tongue, you get the warming oaky, whisky hit. Love at first sip.

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The boys from Staveley had brought some local made Pork Pie to accompany the beers. They were well matched with the Imperial Stout for sure.

Jaz and I had a bit of a chinwag with Matt, who seemed a decent sort, before it was onto the next beer, which he introduced as…….another Imperial Stout at 8.3% abv. This time made with Lyth Valley damsons and Madagascan vanilla pods (the sour and the sweet). Another gloriously black oozing brew, the sourness of the damsons offset by the natural sweetness of all that malt!

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I have to say that my slight preference would be for the “straight” Imperial Stout, though I could barely separate them.

Image(A fine selection of Cumbrian Crackers!)

I then fulfilled my ‘promise to self’ with a pint of Brodies Prime followed by a sneaky half pint of Imperial Stout (rude not to….)

As stated, this was my first “Meet The Brewer”. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was an excellent evening, engaging presentations from people who have a passion about what they brew and some simply astonishingly good beer.

I sloped off at this point, leaving Jaz in his second home (his living room ?) and was slightly surprised to see the guys from Hawkshead piling into their “twin cab” pick up. One of the four having selflessly been the Designated one for the evening.

On that note I bid you a fond farewell til next time.

Slainte!

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